The size of the police executive has grown while front-line staff numbers have stayed the same. But police say the changes have positioned the organisation to grow by 20 per cent in next few years.

New deputy police commissioner Wally Haumaha will not lead a team of district commanders as his predecessor Viv Rickard did.

Instead the police have created another deputy police commissioner role, by internally promoting Assistant Commissioner John Tims to run the 12 police districts.

Police National Headquarters have confirmed the newly-promoted Haumaha retains the same responsibilities as when he was the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services.

As such, no one will be promoted to the rank he vacated.

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Police Commissioner Mike Bush instead promoted Assistant Commissioner Tims to replace Rickard as the deputy commissioner in charge of the districts.

The job was advertised internally on May 29 - the same day Haumaha's appointment was publicly announced by Police Minister Stuart Nash - and the deadline for applications closed just three days later.

Tims, the former district commander for Counties Manukau, was appointed as Deputy Commissioner on June 14 without fanfare.

The vacancy he left as Assistant Commissioner will be filled.

Tims' promotion means there are now four deputy police commissioners, where traditionally under previous commissioners there have been two.

Those were statutory deputy commissioners appointed by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, following a recruitment process run by the State Services Commission.

Wally Haumaha, whose promotion is now the subject of a inquiry led by Dr Pauline Kingi, is the only current statutory deputy commissioner in the police.

The others - John Tims, Mike Clement and Audrey Sonerson - were appointed by Mike Bush under powers given in the Policing Act. This provision allows the Commissioner to "assign to any police employee any level of position that the Commissioner considers appropriate".

Bush was the first commissioner to use this power to promote someone to deputy commissioner, when Clement and Glenn Dunbier were appointed in 2014.

This happened soon after Bush was appointed as Commissioner, who also seconded Viv Rickard to a two-year stint in the Ministry of Social Development.

Dunbier himself was later seconded to the Australian Civil Military Centre, where he is the executive deputy director.

Sonerson - a high-flying public servant - joined the police in October 2016 but after less than two years has taken a secondment at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Assistant Commissioner Andy Coster is relieving in Sonerson's role as Acting Deputy Commissioner in charge of resource management.

Rickard, Dunbier and Sonerson did not return messages about the reasons for their secondments to other government departments.

A spokeswoman at Police National Headquarters said secondments were an important way to develop the skills and experience of staff.

"The Commissioner also supports the State Services Commission's work to grow and enhance the capability of senior leaders within the public service.

"As such we make our staff available for the public sector wide talent boards which are premised on moving senior leadership talent across the agencies for the good of the public service."

As well as the four Deputy Commissioners, there are another four "Deputy Chief Executives" on the same tier of the police executive reporting to the Police Commissioner.

The third tier down are Assistant Commissioners, of which there are eight, as well three non-sworn employees of the same rank, such as Chief of Staff Caz Anderson.

Two more assistant commissioner positions - one a temporary role to oversee planning for APEC and the America's Cup - could be established in a restructure of the executive to be announced in August.

There used to be five assistant commissioners across the country.

The expansion of the police executive occurred while the numbers of staff hovered around 12,000 - with 8800 of those sworn police officers.

A spokeswoman for Police National Headquarters defended the size of the leadership team by saying the executive structure is now "appropriately sized" for an organisation of 12,500 and grow by 20 per cent over the next four years.

"An effective leadership structure has to change as an organisation evolves," the spokeswoman said.

"Police is also embarked on a significant transformation programme and we need the right Executive structure to lead delivery of this change."

The structure was similar in approach to other government departments, said the spokeswoman, which have leadership teams of between 7 and 10 people.

She said the "third tiers" of other government agencies are "considerably larger" with anywhere between 8 and 20 managers equivalent in status to assistant commissioners.

However, the Police Association said there were implications for police resources "whichever way you look" at the expanded executive.

"In policing there is only one place where extra resources should be going at the moment, and that is on the frontline," said president Chris Cahill.

"A larger executive logically requires people to 'report up'. For already stretched districts, extra reporting and associated responsibilities are a big ask."

Cahill said the expansion of the police executive happened while the demands on the frontline have grown at an "alarming rate", but with no corresponding increases in resourcing.

In some cases, Cahill said the numbers of 24/7 response staff decreased as a result of redeployment of staff into prevention initiatives.

"During the long campaign for extra police – sworn and police employees – staff have been very clear that frontline and investigations should be the first cabs off the 'resourcing rank'," said Cahill.

"The Association knows how very disappointed our members will be if they consider some of the promised relief will be spent 'upstairs' rather than out on the streets.

Previous police structure

• Police Commissioner.
• Two statutory Deputy Commissioners, appointed by Governor-General.
• Five Assistant Commissioners.

Current police structure

• Police Commissioner.
• One statutory Deputy Commissioner, appointed by Governor-General.
• Three Deputy Commissioners, appointed by Police Commissioner. Two more on secondment.
• Eight Assistant Commissioners. Two more planned. One on secondment.